A £780,000 (US$1M) pre-seed equity investment in Cardiff AI software company Route Konnect is set to revolutionise the way the world understands people and vehicle movement, abolishing the need for controversial facial recognition technology, in a deal advised on by the GS Verde Group.

Led by the Development Bank of Wales, the investment round will support Route Konnect’s growth ambitions by doubling the team with key technical and business operations hires, in order to bring the platform to market.

Described as the ‘Google Analytics’ of physical spaces, Route Konnect is the first video analytics company to anonymously capture connected, multi-camera, vehicle and people movement insights across any defined space, town or city. Highly accurate, real-time data provides a true understanding of the end-to-end journey, enabling more efficient traffic management, place-making and urban planning for smart cities and the management of places.

Route Konnect seeks to shape the future of video analytics 

Based in The Tramshed, the company has been set up by Chief Executive Mohamed Binesmael, software engineer Matteo De Rosa and Chief Technology Officer Daniel Harborne, a software engineer who previously worked for Amazon. The founders met when studying at Cardiff University in 2016 and have now secured their first pre-seed equity investment led by the Development Bank of Wales’ Technology Seed Fund with additional investment from proptech VC Pi Labs, early-stage investors SFC Capital and private angel investors with the backing of Plug and Play, who were early investors in Dropbox and PayPal.

Co-founder and managing director Mohamed Binesmael tells us, “Our platform captures accurate, intelligent, real-time insights into the movement of people and vehicles – without infringing on individual privacy – to enable better, more efficient traffic management, place-making and urban planning across towns and cities globally. From reducing wait times at traffic lights and easing congestion for emergency services access, to improving customer experiences at stadiums and retail outlets, the application of accurate and anonymous movement insights has universal potential.

“We are thrilled to secure the backing of this incredible line-up of investors, enabling us to double the size of our team with new technical and operational hires, including machine learning and video analytics specialists. With so much research and development already under our belts, we’re ready to accelerate on our ambitions to change the way the world understands people and vehicle behaviour and use intelligent data to save time, resources and reduce impact on the planet.”

Since its launch, Route Konnect has spent over a year in research and development, including taking part in the Dubai Future Accelerators Programme, where the team was able to help the Dubai Police to explore options to improve emergency response times with smarty city solutions. Meanwhile, a trial is currently underway with Cardiff City Council on the introduction of smart corridors to ease traffic congestion, and as a result, Route Konnect was selected as one of 11 Welsh businesses to take part in cohort two of Transport for Wales’ Lab Accelerator programme. A pilot trial will soon commence to help identify opportunities to reduce dwell time at platforms and better manage crowd control at special events. 

Securing investment

Commenting on the investment, Matthew Wilde of the Development Bank of Wales tech ventures team says, Route Konnect has built upon recently published techniques to innovate away the need for facial recognition for multi-camera movement analytics. This capability unlocks powerful insights about the movement across an entire location, without infringing on privacy.

“It’s an ethical solution that addresses a big gap in the market with increasing concerns about public safety, growing traffic congestion problems, rising favourable government initiatives for effective traffic management, increasing adoption of eco-friendly automobile technologies, and the development of smart cities across the world. Even better, it’s being developed right here in Cardiff by a young and ambitious team, so it was an unmissable opportunity for us as early-stage tech investors.”

Hugo Silva, Senior Investment Manager at Pi Labs, adds, “The future of transport and mobility is intrinsically linked to how the built environment is evolving, with AI solutions becoming an essential tool in response to emissions regulations and congestion issues.   Additionally, Route Konnect’s platform goes even further than just transportation and can better inform developers, contractors and asset managers about the flow of people around their properties. Our investment in the company aligns with our conviction to back the most innovative start-ups that are accelerating the trend towards smart cities and urban sustainability. Having invited them to be a part of our 2022 Growth Programme, we are beyond excited to back Mohamed, Daniel and Matteo and our team is committed to helping them scale further and see Route Konnect’s solution deployed widely across global cities.”

The solution developed by Route Konnect uses a number of heuristics that allow for a robust matching of paths travelled by the same person or vehicle across multiple-cameras views. All heuristics used are free from identifiable features and therefore, on their own, are much less powerful than facial recognition technology. However, when combined, these heuristics each provide clues as to which path seen in one camera can be paired with a path from another camera. Testing has shown an accuracy rate of 98%.

Mohamed comments, “There is a growing legal pushback in the UK and EU against the use of facial recognition technology, and GDPR is adding to the challenges. Existing vehicle and transport analytics platforms use either facial recognition technology or process camera data in individual locations in isolation, providing over-simplified vehicle counts or data that has been aggregated. Route Konnect delivers the accuracy of a ‘whole-place’ approach, making critical data available to traffic managers, real estate owners and investors, and city planners to consider the full end-to-end customer journey for improving societal, environmental and economic impacts.”

Route Konnect has also secured a £100,000 grant from Zenzic and been selected for its CAM scale-up programme which gives unique access to the UK’s leading test beds. Over the coming months, Route Konnect will be developing its technology at the Midlands Future Mobility test environment for autonomous vehicles and the Smart Mobility Living Lab in London as well as Horiba Mira, an automotive engineering and development consultancy and test site in Nuneaton.

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.